Drowsy driving isn’t seen as an epidemic in the U.S., yet it contributes to thousands of car accidents and traffic fatalities each year. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports there were 795 drowsy-driving-related car crash deaths in 2017, and 4,121 fatal drowsy driving crashes between 2011 and 2015.
Unfortunately, teens are particularly at risk for not getting enough sleep and being involved in a fatigue-related accident. Adolescents need a great deal of sleep every night, and when they don’t get it, they are not as prepared to be behind the wheel as they may think.
How Much Sleep Should Teens Get?
Because of teenager’s developing brains and bodies, teens need more sleep than adults. Adolescents should get between 9 and 9.5 hours of sleep per night, according to John Hopkins Medicine.
You may see sources recommend teens get between 8 and 10 hours. This is a generalization, though 8 hours may be the best you can hope for. Unfortunately, most adolescents are only getting between 7 and 7.25 hours of sleep each night, according to Nationwide Children’s Hospital.
Why Are Teens Losing Out on Sleep?
There are numerous reasons why your teen is not getting enough sleep—and it’s not because they are stubborn or troublesome. When your children reach their adolescence, their biological internal clock shifts. The shift is about 2 hours, which is why your child who used to fall asleep by 9 p.m. is now not able to fall asleep until 11 p.m.
On top of the difficulty your teen may have falling asleep before 11 p.m., busy schedules contribute to lack of sleep throughout the week. Between school and homework, sports, other after-school activities, and socialization, your child may stay up late and have to be up early.
School start times as early as 7 a.m. play a role as well. If your teen is up until midnight doing homework and has to be back up at 6 a.m. to get to school, there is no way for them to get the sleep they need.
Another issue is the irregular schedule your teen may keep during the week. Because of missing hours of sleep during the week, it is normal for teens to want to sleep in late on the weekend. However, this can contribute to difficulties maintaining a normal sleep schedule Monday through Friday.
Additionally, undiagnosed sleep and mental health issues impact sleep. If your teen is dealing with undiagnosed or untreated sleep apnea, depression, or anxiety, then they may not be getting the sleep they need at night.
The Repercussions of Sleep Deprived Teens: Drowsy Driving
The studies are clear—failing to get enough sleep as a teen or adult increases the risk of being involved in car accidents. In a 2012 study conducted in New South Wales, Australia, researchers at the University of Sydney found adolescents who reported sleeping 6 or fewer hours per night had an increased risk of car crashes compared to those who reported sleeping more than 6 hours per night. Also, teenagers who reported getting less weekend sleep had a higher risk of run-off-road and late-night crashes.
What many teens and parents do not realize is that drowsiness can be similar to intoxication. The National Safety Council reports being awake 18 hours straight is similar to having a .05 percent blood alcohol concentration. This means if your teen doesn’t go to sleep one night because of a school assignment due the next day, they should not be behind the wheel the next morning.
But your teen isn’t only in danger after an all-nighter. Adolescents are at risk for dangerous drowsy driving whenever they have to:
- Drive to school early in the morning after fewer than 9 hours of sleep;
- Drive home in mid-afternoon when their circadian rhythm would prefer they take a nap;
- Drive late on weekend nights after a week of too little sleep.
Were You or Your Child Injured in Drowsy Driving Accident?
If you or a family member were involved in a car accident with a suspected drowsy driver or you suspect the driver fell sleep, contact a Denver car accident lawyer at the Law Office of Jennifer L. Donaldson. She will work with you to review your case and advise you of the compensation available to you if you pursue your claim. You can use the online form or call (720) 487-1368 to schedule a free consultation.